Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘training programs

Article #9, April 6, 2005

”Besides displays and controls, what other Interfaces do you design?”

Human Factors professionals are hopefully directing their efforts into designing interfaces between systems and end users and focusing their research into collecting useful data that can be directly applied by engineers and designers.

As mentioned in the previous articles, the two main interfaces that common people might guess are the displays that inform a user of the status of the system and the control devices which allow the end-user to modify the status of the system to a normal functioning behavior.

Since end users are the target and they do determine the success of any systems, consequently, for any system to be accepted, purchased and retained the end-user has to be able to operate the product easily, efficiently, without undue training, be relatively affordable and safe for use by the intended users.

Let us consider the various stages that the designs of a system go through in order to effectively deliver on its purposes and objectives:

First:  To define the objectives and specifications we have to determine the user’s needs and characteristics, organizational structure, work flow, and human performance measurement procedures and parameters. An expert ergonomics is trained to study and analyze all these requirements.

Second:  Next, we have to define the functional and operational requirements.  An expert ergonomics can and should participate in this stage.

Third:  The basic design stage of function allocations to operators or machines, work procedures and performance feedbacks are intrinsic knowledge to ergonomics.

Fourth:  Designing interfaces and work areas are the primary training of ergonomics engineers.

Fifth:  Designing facilitator material such as developing staffing, instructions, performance aids and training are the expertise of ergonomics.

Sixth:  Evaluating and testing specifications and performance are within the training of human factors/ergonomics professionals.

All interfaces that help a user operate a product or subsystem according to the above criteria are part and parcel of the responsibilities of Human Factors professionals.

Consequently, the interfaces within the Human Factors professionals’ capabilities and training are mainly, workstation design, instruction manual, job aids design, training programs and evaluation of systems.

Many other job descriptions during the first stages of system design and operation are within the knowledge and training of Human Factors as well: mainly, task analysis, operation-sequence diagrams and allocation of functions and task to either human operators or machine, or automated sections in systems.

Obviously designing an interface for a mandated trained user like an airplane pilot or a nuclear power plant engineer is easier, complexity of the system being comparable, than designing for common people of all gender differences, stature, age, race and cultural variety.

Designing operation and maintenance manuals attached to any product is an important job description that could promote the acceptance and usage of a specific product.

Usually, the instruction manuals contains safety signs, messages and pictorial for the main steps in the operation and thus enhancing safety and avoiding unnecessary litigations down the road.

Designing training programs for the operation, maintenance and repair of products for targeted personnel are within the job description of Human factors graduates.

Evaluating systems’ performance for essential criteria, including training time, safety built-in design, understandability of the manuals and acceptability are within the training proficiency of Human Factors graduates.

One of the widely promoted job descriptions is designing workstations.

Workstations design is not about just chairs, tables, keyboards, computer screens and the dozen other gizmos related to a fully functional workstation from communication to printing to audio-visual facilities.

A functional workstation has to account for the tasks involved, the positions of the operators, the arrangement, the lighting environment, and the entrance and egress facilities that could harm the operator.

A Human Factors should evaluate a workstation on the health and safety criteria of a designed workstation as well as its operability.

For example, we have already talked about repetitive trauma disorders, pains in various parts of the body and permanent health problems.

Note:  A student version found that designers of menu interface had difficulty with 91% of the guidelines. Analyses of the cause of the users’ errors were studied for recommendations.

February 23, 2005

“In peace time, why and how often are Human Factors professionals hired?”

In peace time, governments of modern countries are the major employers of Human Factors and industrial psychologists either directly or indirectly.

Many of government’s contracts with private companies attach clauses that require involvements of these professionals in their projects, and so they get hired in order to secure bids.

In peace time, which is rare, companies have the luxury to select who they think are the best qualified candidates from the vast pool of job applicants, locally and internationally.

People assume that the hired applicants are mostly the best qualified technically and the best trained for the jobs.

Most of us are very skeptical about that assumption of hiring the best qualified applicants, especially in underdeveloped countries. 

It seems that this skepticism is applicable everywhere and for good reasons.

When you have to interact with coworkers every day for eight hours a day, it stands to reason that you prefer people whom you think are compatible to your idiosyncrasies.

So far, this approach might be considered rational emotionally, and bearing many elements of common sense and good judgments.

On the other hand, how could any one test his incompatibility of living and interacting with someone else, based on his discrimination on sex, race, color and religion if the opportunities to meet with them is an impossibility or at best the interactions are fleeting?

Under social and political pressures, governments have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination on the jobs unless the applicant is proven unqualified by well documented facts for specific requirements.

Obviously a law is not much of a law if no painful penalties are attached to it and no enforcement mechanisms are contemplated or an appropriate budget allocated for an independent agency and inspections agents.

So, how could an enforcement agency go about clamping down on these companies that discriminate unabashedly and with no impunity?

The first main tool is to collect data and analyze the proportions of the population hired.

A more serious analysis would compare these proportions within each department, especially in the higher levels jobs.

Any critical discrepancy in these proportions will trigger a red alert for direct inspection of the non abiding firms and legal actions taken.

By the by, the enforcement agency would learn to set priorities in their enforcement endeavor and learn what categories of companies are most inclined to discriminate for closer targeting.

So, what other job descriptions can be applicable to the training of Human Factors graduates in peace time?

A few of the design training in sound curriculum offer capabilities for designing instruction manuals, job aids, training programs, evaluation of systems on criteria of safe usage, ease of operation, ease of maintenance and repair, acceptability and retaining products.

Many of these jobs are taken by other graduates who have narrow multidisciplinary training and knowledge but are not described as engineering jobs and evidently lower wages are offered and gladly accepted.

Another job opportunity is designing workstations, not only in manufacturing facilities, but also computer workstations for institutions, private use, and educating the consumers to the various safety and health problems related to sedentary and repetitive jobs.

Note:  The version of a student to my article gave the impression that discrimination to jobs is prevalent only in underdeveloped countries.  I believe that perception is not correct since only a consistant and persistent application and enforcement of the anti-discrimination laws can hold discrimination behavior to a reduced level and check its spread among the companies and institutions.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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